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Fort Worth early education plans spotlighted in executive branch roundtable

Federal officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services came down to Fort Worth on Oct. 3 to discuss early childcare.

Mayor Betsy Price and local business leaders joined the department’s Administration for Children and Families in a roundtable discussion on childcare and innovative solutions to reduce the cost of childcare through public-private partnerships.

Favoring the noting of providing subsidiaries to businesses for childcare, Price said that on-job childcare services work as a tool to attract and retain talents in the high-demand workforce.

“We give them tax break for zillion other things,” Price said. “Let’s give them for one that really gets to the heart where this country has to go if we’re going to continue to be the shining example on the economic development.”

Shannon Christian, director of the Office of Child Care at HHS’ Administration for Children and Families, agreed and held a similar position.

“Both for family economic stability and for child development, getting it right or wrong impacts the workforce of today as well as tomorrow,” Christian said, “and ultimately the economic strength and competitiveness of our country.”

The pitstop in Fort Worth was the Administration for Children and Families’ fifth in a series of ten roundtable discussions being hosted nationwide.

In total, 17 panelists spoke in the roundtable and discussed innovations in early childhood education.

Here’s are some of the topics discussed by the panelists:

On company policies

Elizabeth Jenswold, executive director of human resources at JPMorgan Chase:

We know that families are built in a variety of different ways, and families come in all different shapes and sizes. So, we help build families. We pay for surrogacy, adoption. We help people with fertility treatment. We also pay the full cost when somebody goes to the hospital to deliver a child.

Marianne Auld, managing partner at Kelly Hart and Hallman:

I completely agree that happy family members are happy employees. And that’s who we need to show up to work because they are going to stay with us, they’re going to be more productive with us. That’s what the ultimate endgame is. We have a lot of provisions. A lot of what we’re talking about in terms of maternity leave, paternity leave–shouldn’t matter whether it’s mom or dad, everyone needs to be able to bond with a child.

On problems businesses face

Anette Landeros, president of Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce:

There are wonderful models that our corporate partners are exemplifying, like JPMorgan Chase. But, as mentioned, the smaller and mid-sized businesses, they don’t have as many resources available to them to – one, research these practices, look into the implementation, what are the cost? The chamber is really an extension of all these best practices that we can help siphon that information to our business members.

Jerletha McDonald, CEO of Arlington DFW Child Care:

When you think about helping families afford high-quality childcare, please think about the practitioners who run these businesses. Because we need to run high-quality, sustainable businesses in order to provide high-quality care and education that children need.

Chris Huckabee, CEO of Huckabee architecture firm:

If everyone starts the same, everyone will be the same. The problem is we’re starting everyone at a different starting point. So, it’s a huge, huge issue that we’re trying to solve.

It’s not the only thing. Facilities aren’t the only thing. But they are one very important thing we should be valuing. Infrastructure matters.

On potential solutions

Kara Waddell, CEO of Child Care Associates:

I’m saying, I can take the federal money that the Administration of Children and Families get us and make it work for infants and toddlers. But we simply don’t have the classroom design for that. And this city has stepped – our philanthropy, our business community and saying like, ‘we don’t exactly know how we’re going to get it right, but we’re not going to get the brick and mortar wrong.’ The next most important thing next to, of course, the classroom is critical, but what’s more important is the professional, the teacher actually in the classroom.

Beth Schmidt, assistant vice president of human resources at Cook Children’s Health Care System:

We do have an on-site childcare center. We had the center for 15 years. We just celebrated our 15th anniversary. We do share half of the spaces with our neighbors at First Methodists. We believe it’s critically important to attract and retain qualified candidates and this is one of those things that our employees told us about they needed and wanted. We obviously know we can’t do everything with one on-site childcare center. We have people not just on the downtown campus, but in other campuses. So, we also have resources for employees so they can reach out and find other childcare options.

David Mansdoerfer, special assistant to the president at UNTHSC:

We are very thankful, very appreciative of the relationships (with other local partners). I think it does show the opportunities out there where an investment from, again, a public entity can help not just its own employees, but its entire community.

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Neetish Basnet
Neetish is a writer and digital content producer for Fort Worth Business Press. He has been covering businesses of all shapes and sizes in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex for several years. After graduating with a journalism degree from University of Texas-Arlington, Dow Jones News Fund selected him for a digital media fellowship. He still likes the smell of a freshly printed newspaper.

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